The 5 Best Benzoyl Peroxide Products
Few over-the-counter ingredients are as effective at treating acne than benzoyl peroxide. But with so many different benzoyl peroxide-infused formulas on the market — cleansers, serums, spot treatments, et cetera — where does one even start? To figure out how to choose the best benzoyl peroxide products, I spoke with two experts: Gary Linkov, MD, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of City Facial Plastics in New York, and Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic surgeon.
But first, some science. “Benzoyl peroxide is similar to hydrogen peroxide in that it releases oxygen on the skin to destroy bacteria," Dr. Linkov explains. "It also has anti-inflammatory and comedolytic properties, which helps open up pores and decrease inflammation on the skin.” Not only can benzoyl peroxide effectively treat acne, but my experts say it helps reduce blackheads and whiteheads, too.
Benzoyl peroxide comes in a range of strengths, but Dr. Husain says that a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. “Studies have shown that lower percentages of benzoyl peroxide products (2.5-5%) are just as effective as higher concentrations (10%). Higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide can lead to more dryness and irritation.” Though the ingredient is safe for use on most skin types, “People with sensitive skin should use benzoyl peroxide products with the lowest concentrations, and it should be avoided completely in pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant,” notes Dr. Linkov.
You can find benzoyl peroxide in a variety of different products, and Dr. Linkov says that it’s up to each individual to decide which one works best for them. To help get you started, you'll find five of the most highly rated and well-reviewed benzoyl peroxide products on the market, just ahead.
1. Author's Pick: A Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser That Doubles As A Mask
The Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask contains 3.5% benzoyl peroxide to treat breakouts and keep skin looking clear. Dr. Husain believes face washes are the most practical way to use benzoyl peroxide if you're using other topical medications, such as antibiotics and retinoids, so you aren't piling on multiple creams. (He adds that you should always talk to your dermatologist to figure out the best treatment plan for your unique skin!)
For deep cleaning, apply this as a mask and leave it on for up to five minutes before rinsing it off. Or, simply use it as a quick cleanser, as you normally would. In addition to the benzoyl peroxide, the formula contains bentonite and kaolin clay, which both help sop up oil and clean out clogged pores. To avoid over-drying or irritating your skin, only use it as a mask two to three times per week, max.
2. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser For Dry, Acne-Prone Skin
CeraVe's Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser is the dermatologist-favorite brand's first product to contain benzoyl peroxide (4%, to be precise). The cleanser also contains hyaluronic acid to restore moisture, niacinamide to reduce congestion, and barrier-strengthening ceramides — a staple in all CeraVe products, which is crucial for dry skin types — to keep skin healthy and protected. This fragrance-free, paraben-free face wash has a cream-to-foam formula that deep cleans skin gently, while effectively reducing acne-causing bacteria without unbalancing your skin.
Note that you can also use this as a body wash, if you typically get breakouts on areas like your chest, butt, or back.
3. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
With a formula containing 5% benzoyl peroxide, the Differin Daily Deep Cleanser is better-suited to oily, acne-prone skin (you can use it as a body wash, too!). The ingredients list is quite short, which is typically a good sign, but it does note glycerin, a humectant that helps attract and restore moisture. That said, since this cleanser is on the stronger side, you'll want to follow up with a great, noncomedogenic moisturizer to avoid drying out your skin.
One reviewer commented, "My acne had completely gone away by the end of the first bottle [of this cleanser]. Now I'm halfway through the second one and still no acne at all. Cleanses well but does not leave the skin overly dry or irritated."
4. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Spot Treatment
This cult-favorite spot treatment from French derm-favorite brand, La Roche-Posay, contains 5.5% benzoyl peroxide to treat acne, as well as lipo-hydroxy acid to further exfoliate skin. This is an oil-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free formula that's safe for all skin types, even for people with sensitive skin. Apply a very thin layer to just the affected areas of your skin. It absorbs quickly and doesn't leave behind a white residue, so you can use it in the morning before you apply moisturizer and sunscreen.
5. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Serum
It's rare to find a serum that contains benzoyl peroxide — but the DRMTLGY 24 Hour Acne Serum does. Not only does it contain 5% benzoyl peroxide to treat acne, but it also contains 5% glycolic acid to exfoliate skin, which can help fade signs of past breakouts, as well. Botanical ingredients like arnica extract, echinacea, and calendula flower help keep skin soothed and moisturized, though you'll still definitely want to follow up with a nice, hydrating cream. Note that it might be too strong to be applied all over your face, but reviewers swear by it as a spot treatment. You can also use it on your chest and back, if you typically get breakouts there.
Almost 80% of customers gave this serum a perfect five-star review. "WOW! This is the best product to clear up cystic acne. I have tried so many other products, and this one takes the cake," wrote one. Another commented, "The liquid absorbs into my skin quickly, doesn't leave a sticky feeling and doesn't affect my sensitive skin. The best part is that it works super quick!"
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Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist.
Gary Linkov, MD, board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of City Facial Plastics.